Who is Mary? Who is this woman to whom we dedicate our lives each day?
For some, she is Our Lady of the Pillar. For others Our lady of Providence. Then there is Our Lady of Nazareth, and Notre Dame d’Afrique. We just celebrated Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Loretto. Many titles for the Mother of God.
Today, we celebrate and honor Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Now, for those in Rome, it might not mean too much. But for those in Mexico, the United States, and all the Americas, we celebrate her in a special way because she is the patroness of the Americas.
In 1531, Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a humble native American, on a hillside near present-day Mexico City. She requested that a church be built on the site. The Bishop dismissed Juan Diego but was persuaded after he brought a bunch of roses, a rare site in the midst of winter. Mary’s image was also imprinted on Juan Diego’s simple cloak.
These stories and miracles are probably good enough in themselves. They have led to a strong devotion to Mary, especially among the peoples of Latin America. And the Basilica today is a busy site for pilgrims from all over. However, what I probably like best about the story is that Mary appeared to Juan Diego as a Native Person herself and she spoke his native language. She was the not the blond hair, blue eye Madonna of Europe. But, she came as one of the native peoples. For me, and perhaps for you, this is the message of the feast for all people. Mary comes to us as one of us. She is like us.
Mary is first a disciple of Jesus, like we try to be. Mary heard the call of God and said “yes.” This is what we are trying to do, too. Mary doubted, prayed, wept, rejoiced, believed…all things that we do on our own pilgrimage of faith. The American theologian Elizabeth Johnson wrote a book on Mary and called it: “Truly our Sister.” This is an apt title for Mary whom we celebrate today. She is our sister who walks among us, who guides us, and who encourages us in our journey of faith.
In today’s readings, we hear a message of hope and of consolation. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God who is creator of the heavens and earth. Those who trust in this creator “will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.” The example of Mary reminds us of this promise. She, as handmaid of the Lord, knew that God would do great things in her. God was her strength and her energy. As she walks among us, she reminds us to put our faith and trust in the God who made us and loves us.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus say, “Come to me” and “learn from me.” Our God is not a distant God directing things from the heavens, but a God who is near to us and who is inviting us to himself. Again, Mary welcomed this invitation from the Lord. She wholeheartedly gave her life to Jesus and learned his way of love. This is our call - to give our lives to Jesus following the example of Mary.
Today we celebrate Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. May we be reminded that Mary is with us, walking with us on our pilgrimage of faith. As she appeared to Juan Diego so many years ago, let us pray that Mary be with us and bring to us Jesus. And may we do the same today to those we meet.
Of course, for the community I will give this in Italian...Here's a little taste:
Oggi, noi ricordiamo ed onoriamo Maria sotto il titolo di Nostra Signora di Guadalupe. Ora, per quelli di Roma, non potrebbe significare troppo. Ma per quelli in Messico, gli Stati Uniti, e tutte le Americhe, noi la festeggiamo in modo speciale perché lei è la patrona delle Americhe.